Mightier than the Sword by Jessica McColl

It feels like only yesterday that I was writing about the dire circumstances that accompany ‘kitten season’ in Australia and yet here we are again. Already many pounds and shelters are starting to fill up with mama cats and kittens, very soon-to-be mama cats and batches of orphaned kittens.

You see, here I would usually start prattling on about irresponsible owners who don’t desex their pets and who don’t realise that they are contributing to the problem. But that gets really tiring really fast. Yes, there are irresponsible owners in spades out there. No, that does not condone the treatment that cats receive within the pound system.

You see, during kitten season, things get bad within the pounds. Really bad. It becomes over crowded, disease and illness sweeps through there and everything becomes sick. People come in for a look (thank you for choosing to adopt and not shop) and will spend ages looking into the kitten cage but sweep past all of the older cats. The older cats may be barely two years old.

I can tell you all the lines we use to encourage people into taking an older cat; they are out of crazy kitten stage, you have a better idea of what you are going to get purrsonality wise, such-and-such is so deserving of a beautiful home and yet it rarely makes a difference. So rescue organisations are approached, “please take this cat”, but they too are overflowing. They feel the terrible pinch of having to say ‘no’ because they cannot take anymore. Some are told explicitly that if they do not take this cat or a litter of kittens, that they will be euthanised that afternoon. When they say euthanised, they actually mean killed. There is no use trying to sugar coat the word that is used to express the killing of healthy or formerly healthy animals driven to illness through neglect. Now imagine that were you. You were that rescuer, doing this because you love animals and want to make a real difference. You have seen ones survive terrible odds, tenderly nursed them through the worst days so that they could live a whole life of better days. You have lost some. You tried and tried for them but their will to live was broken or the enemy too strong, your last gift was to hold them so that they knew love existed as they made their final journey. You have wanted to keep some of them (read: all of them) but know they have to leave to make way for new ones. When you are told that those you don’t take will be killed you feel as though it is your fault and weighs on your mind and conscience.

It is terribly unfair. Depression and burnout is rife within the rescue community.

Kittens are easier to rescue in many ways because they can be easily confined to a small cat run or large dog crate, as mentioned above they are more adoptable and at this time of year there are in never ending supply. By taking a litter, multiple lives are saved.

Where do all of those impounded adult cats go, you may ask. Those who aren’t adopted directly or taken by rescues?

The answer is simple: cold storage.

Death row kitty

Death row kitty

Irresponsible owners are not the ones killing cats in pounds. Many cats are desexed. Many are micro chipped. Many have clearly been loved by people in the past because of their beautiful temperaments and love of human company. Many are impounded in perfect health. Yet these cats are also killed. We focus on the fact that people don’t desex and that people are irresponsible, they are the reason that all of these cats must pay the ultimate price. I implore you to really question whether this is the case.

Find out who your local council is; are they embracing no-kill strategies, what do they do to rehome companion animals, go and have a look at what it is like. People don’t want to go and look because it is upsetting; how about I propose that it shouldn’t be upsetting. The animals should be safe, healthy, living in a clean environment – the pound just a mere safety net until they move on to their new home or until they are reunited with their owners. Look at the numbers. At my local council pound the rehoming rate for cats sits at around 15% (yes, you read that correctly).  I know what it looks like and if one of my babies ended up in there I would be devastated. Not grateful, as I should expect to be because of the lovely care they should be afforded while they wait for me there.

I am a ratepayer. A percentage of my rates go to that facility and if I were to pick up my cats I would also be expected to pay a release fee. As a community we should have some sort of say in where that money goes.

Right now, far too many of my hard earned dollars are going towards green needles, how about yours?